Google Research Results: Why adding a feature users demanded decreased their traffic

Google has conducted many focus groups and research studies over the years.  Do you know what one of the most frequently requested improvement has been? It is to show more than 10 search results per page.  Most folks want to see as many as 20 or 30 results per page.

So why hasn’t Google listened to their audience?

Because Google did conduct a test with a small group of people.  And it failed miserably.

Google VP Marissa Mayer once conducted a test where a group of people saw 30 results per page instead of the default 10.  But by tracking this group, she found that the revenue Google earned from them dropped by 20%.  Not only that, but the number of searches these people ran dropped by 20% too.  Overall traffic dropped by 20%.

When Marissa started digging in deeper to find the cause for this, she found an uncontrolled variable. The page with 10 results took .4 seconds to generate and load. The page with 30 results took .9 seconds.

The delay of half a second caused a 20% drop in searches and traffic.

Page Load Speed matters a lot online.

The slower your website load, the fewer pages your audience will read.  And the quicker they will leave.

Whats more, these days – the search engines also take page load speeds into consideration while determining where to rank you in the search results.  Everything else being equal, a website that loads faster will out rank the one that takes a bit more time.

So how do you make your website load quicker?  There are a lot of simple and complex things you can do to optimize your website’s page load times.  But keeping the 80-20 Pareto principle in mind, here are 3 things that you can do for free to make 80% of difference.

3 easy things to do that will optimize your page load speeds

1. De-Clutter.

Clean up your website.  Delete elements not needed.  Only retain the absolute essential elements of your website.  You don’t need 20 different social media buttons.  You don’t need archives that go back 5 years.

Here is what you should do: implement an analytics tool that has the heatmap feature (such as CrazyEgg). And which shows what people click on on your webpage.  And get rid of the sections with low click through rates.

2. Optimize your image sizes.

Reduce the size of your images. So that they load quicker, and as a result – your page loads quicker too.

A good tool to do this is: smush.it. You can use smush.it to optimize multiple images together too. And best of all – it’s a free tool!

(If you use WordPress, you can use the smush.it for wordpress plugin too.)

3. Use caching.

If your website is powered by a content management system, you should use some sort of caching. With a content management system, your database is called every time a person visits your website – and your webpage is created on the fly. But if you use caching, your website will create the content only once instead of every time a new person visits your website. It really removes a bottleneck by creating static pages out of the content – and makes your website load a lot quicker.

(If you use WordPress, you could use the W3 total cache plugin.)

More page speed optimization tactics

These 3 solutions should play a lions share in optimizing your website loading time. But if you want to dig in even deeper, then here are 2 tools you can use:

  1. YSlow plugin: http://developer.yahoo.com/yslow/ (a plugin you’ll have to install to your browser)
  2. Google Page speed online tool: http://pagespeed.googlelabs.com/ (an online application)

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